July 17, 2020
Daybreak: Psalms 61:1 through 64:10
“From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61:2)
Throughout history, people have fought being overwhelmed by fear. The ancient Greek tragedian Sophocles (497-405 B.C.) wrote, “To him who is in fear, everything rustles.” In the 1700s, the Irish statesman Edmund Burke noted, “No passion so effectively robs the mind of its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” Ferdinand Foch, Commander in Chief of the Allied Armies during World War I, once declared, “None but a coward dares to boast that he has never known fear.” On March 4, 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Dealing with fear is one of the toughest problems humans face, partially because there are so many types of fear. Some people struggle with a fear of death, serious illness, or injury. Others fear being separated from people they love, or of losing control. There is fear of commitment, of failure, of rejection, or of job loss. The list could go on and on!
Whatever type of fear threatens to overwhelm us, our success in dealing with it depends upon the approach we take. Throughout the Bible, God frequently told people, “Fear not.” In fact, that command (or similar phrases such as “do not be afraid”) occurs more than one hundred times in Scripture! God never commands us to do something we are incapable of doing. He either equips us to follow through in obedience, or steps in to help us accomplish His directive.
So, how do we go about overcoming fear? We find the answer in today’s focus verse. When the psalmist’s life was in danger and his heart was overwhelmed, he turned to “the rock that is higher than I” — the living God himself. Like David, we can deal with fear by acknowledging that it is too strong for us to handle on our own. We must turn our concerns and apprehensions over to God, remembering that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and always in control. Not only that, He knows the future, and He wants what is best for us.
Fear-inducing circumstances will come to each of us at some point in life. We may feel vulnerable and overwhelmed, but we must remember that God is our lifelong Protector. He has promised never to abandon or forsake us. When we are secure in His love and salvation, we can be assured that nothing will come our way that He has not allowed. In Him we will find help to triumph over fear!
Psalm 61 is the prayer of a banished ruler. The most probable historical setting is 2 Samuel 17:27, when David fled for refuge to Mahanaim from his rebellious son, Absalom. The psalm is identified by commentators as either a personal lament (because of its plea to God for security and assurance) or a royal psalm (based on the prayer for the king found in verses 6-7). The theme of Psalm 61 is trust in God’s strength and protection. It is divided into two parts, which are separated by the word “selah.” The first section (verses 1-4) contains an opening prayer and an avowal of trust in God. In verses 5-8, David expressed confidence that God had heard his vows, and concluded with an affirmation of his commitment.
The theme for Psalm 62, a song of trust, is that God is a sure refuge in times of trouble. The title indicates it was given to the Jeduthun family to perform (see 1 Chronicles 25). Psalm 39 is the first psalm which identifies Jeduthun; he is also referenced in the superscriptions to Psalms 77 and 89. (In Psalm 89 he is identified as Ethan the Ezrahite; his name was changed from Heman after the appointments at Gibeon which are described in 1 Chronicles 16).
While verse 4 indicates that Psalm 62 was written during a period when David was threatened by enemies who used lies and deception, no specific setting is given. The phrase translated “imagine mischief” (verse 3) literally means “to rush upon” as in an attack or assault. In verse 4, the verb “curse” may have a demonic or magical connotation, implying a hex or spell. Yet the last verses of the psalm indicate that David knew God could defend against all of these.
David wrote Psalm 63 while in the wilderness of Judah. A hymn-type poem, it is entirely addressed to God rather than being about Him. The psalmist began by describing his longing for God, expressed his determination to worship Him, pondered God’s care, and concluded with an expression of confidence in God’s eventual victory. The theme is David’s sure knowledge that God had been his “help” and protection — an assurance that brought deep spiritual satisfaction. Historical records indicate that early church leaders decreed no day should pass without the public singing of this psalm.
The theme of Psalm 64 is divine judgment of the wicked. It is a personal lament against the psalmist’s enemies, whose primary form of opposition was malicious slander. There are two possibilities as to setting: Doeg’s criticism of David which is described in 1 Samuel 22, or Ahithophel’s evil counsel, as related in 2 Samuel chapters 15-17.
This psalm follows the typical pattern of a song of lament. It opens with a complaint or cry to God, describes the “workers of iniquity” who were aligned against the psalmist and the methods they employed, reflects upon the response of the righteous, and closes with a confident prediction of God’s avenging.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II. Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III. Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV. Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V. Book V (107:1 — 150:6)
A Closer Look
- In Psalm 61:3-4, what are three ways David described God which alluded to His protection?
- Why do you think the psalmist used the word “thirst” in Psalm 63 to describe his longing for God?
- When trouble comes, what are some steps we can take to make sure our faith and trust is anchored in God?
When we face circumstances which could cause fear, we can follow the example of David and place our trust in God.